World Views: America’s Battle Against Terrorism
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MARGARET WARNER: To assess this extraordinary year for America and the world, we turn to three foreign affairs columnists: Jim Hoagland of The Washington Post, Trudy Rubin of The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Andres Oppenheimer of The Miami Herald. Welcome to you all.
Trudy, the war in Iraq was clearly the most dramatic event, foreign policy event of this year. Was it also the most significant in terms of having a lasting impact?
TRUDY RUBIN: Well I think the lasting impact is still for us to discover because there are so many uncertainties connected with this war that we don’t know how they’ll turn out yet. But it was a dramatic event because it was revolutionary in its concept. This was a preemptive, really a preventive war.
There was no direct casus belli. It was a war that was waged to revolutionize the Middle East. The president has talked about democracy for the whole region. This is revolutionary Wilsonianism. So it undertook immense goals. I think it will be judged by whether it comes anywhere close to achieving them.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree with that, Jim Hoagland, revolutionary in its concept?
JIM HOAGLAND: Well, that’s still to be seen as Trudy has suggested. It is a very dramatic event. It is part of a huge commitment that this American president has made toward the transformation of the region he calls the greater Middle East as his national security advisor Condoleezza Rice makes clear, they see this as a generational commitment of the United States to begin in Iraq to try to bring a democratic and stable government in Iraq, to move on then to the Israeli/Palestinian problem and help with the creation of an independent Palestinian state hoping that these developments will really change the politics, the whole political structure, of a region that was at the source of 9/11 and the source of a great deal of explosive bitterness and resentments.
We are at the beginning of a new era, whether we succeed or we fail in Iraq.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you see it that way, Andres Oppenheimer that the war in Iraq really signals the beginning of a new era?
ANDRES OPPENHEIMER: I do agree with Jim and with Trudy in that it was a dramatic and important event. I think will have a lasting impact on the relationship between the U.S. and the rest of the world. I think it has driven a wedge between the U.S. and its European allies, between the U.S. and Latin America, and we are not fully aware of that, most people in this country.
I was sort of amazed by the information divide during the war. I made a trip to Mexico in the middle of the war with Iraq. The minute I landed at the airport I was surprised by the magazines, the newspapers showing dismembered bodies and Iraqis dying all over the place, et cetera, et cetera. It was as if we were watching two different wars. And I think that will have a lasting impact. We’re reading and seeing and watching on TV two versions of the same story but through totally different perspectives.
MARGARET WARNER: Jim Hoagland, pick up on that. This… I mean, the critics said… America, the Bush administration was ready to go it alone and went it alone — that isn’t the phrase — in Iraq. Has there been a fundamental shift that you think is lasting in terms of America’s relationship with its allies and its whole concept of alliances?
JIM HOAGLAND: I doubt that it’s quite as fundamental as some people seem to believe. We are in a multi-year process. One of the things that will be remembered about 2003 was that it didn’t stand alone so much of the year. It was the follow-on in many ways in the war against al-Qaida and global terrorism from 2001. It is analogous perhaps to the late 1940s when new alliances were beginning to be born, when the invasion of Korea, the Berlin blockade, other events caused NATO to be born and to become a strong and effective international alliance. The Cold War ended some 12 years ago. We are seeing the effects of the end of the Cold War today and the bitter disputes that arose between France and Germany on the one hand and the United States on the other. But that does not mean that NATO has lost its relevance for today. Look at what NATO is doing in Afghanistan today and the role that it’s likely to take on with French and German agreement in Iraq in the coming year or two. I think it can be overdone — the idea that somehow America’s international alliances are unraveling or somehow we have irrevocably lost the support of the rest of the world. I don’t believe that.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you believe that, Trudy?
TRUDY RUBIN: Well, I think that you see that there is an effort now to recoup, to rebuild alliances. I think Jim Baker’s trip was not just about debt reduction.
It was sending out Mr. Fix-it — the man who put together the multilateral alliances of Bush 41′s government. And so there will be an attempt to patch up. I think also the very revolutionary character of the Bush doctrine has yet to be proven because in a way you can already see that the Iraq venture was one of a kind. This kind of preventive war with regime change can’t be repeated. We don’t have the manpower in the military. We don’t have the wallet. And already of the three countries in the axis of evil, Iraq is the one where there was regime change but it is clear that the Bush administration is moving back to its negotiations on North Korea, on Iran. Deputy Secretary of State Armitage has said that the administration’s policy is not regime change in Iran, and that was said publicly to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee so I think that this doctrine may not be quite as revolutionary as it seemed and there will be an attempt to patch up alliances after the fact.
MARGARET WARNER: Andres, that’s true, isn’t it, that despite the fact that this doctrine of preemption was issued in this national security directive and it was so sweeping or seemed to be in black and white that it isn’t being applied in these other examples. What do you make of that?
ANDRES OPPENHEIMER: Well, you know, it wasn’t entirely new. There was something similar during the Clinton administration but nobody spelled it out and made such a fuss about it. Now, we are talking a lot about the U.S. relationship with other countries in terms of government-to-government relations. What troubles me, Margaret, is the battle for the hearts and minds of the people because that’s what’s going to count in the long run. And we are not winning that. Jim may be right. We may be able to reconstruct our alliances. We may be able to rebuild different alliances but if you look at the polls in Europe, in Latin America, in Asia, anti- Americanism is growing substantially — has doubled in many countries. And ultimately in the long run, that’s what’s going to breed new terrorists so we can build all the alliances we want, but if we don’t work on the hearts and minds of the people, in the long run we’re not going to win this war.
MARGARET WARNER: That is a very troubling development, isn’t it Jim Hoagland? Wouldn’t you say in this past year America’s standing among the public in the world is down?
JIM HOAGLAND: It certainly is down and it’s something that we urgently need to address. We don’t spend nearly enough time in this country as citizens or as members of the government thinking about how we appear to the rest of the world and how we can affect that. On the other hand, I think we do have to look at some of the reasons for this. Some of it is that simply we’re the richest, biggest most powerful nation.
There’s going to be natural resentment of that. More importantly I think is that the United States in the past year to two has become an agent of change, of radical change in international relations. The Bush administration has now succeeded, for better or for worse, in reshaping the strategic landscape in global affairs. Other nations, other peoples are forced to react to this very big, very intrusive power. They may not like being disturbed, particularly in areas like the Middle East where we’re saying you have to change your politics, your political structures, in many cases your form of government because you’ve created huge problems for the rest of the world. That’s not a message that’s going to go down very easily, but it is a message that I think the time has come to deliver.
MARGARET WARNER: Trudy, go ahead. Comment on this, this gulf that’s widening between the U.S. as a power and the public and the rest of the world, much of the world.
TRUDY RUBIN: Sometimes I think that half of the problem– maybe not quite half– but a lot of the problem this administration has with public opinion abroad is because some officials just can’t zip their lip. So often there have been egregious remarks that have offended people unnecessarily, whether it’s Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, whether it was the recent memo on contracts that came just as Secretary Baker was leaving. Even if at the end the administration gets what it wants, it unnecessarily alienates people along the way.
In addition, I think when one puts out grandiose scheme like democracy for the Middle East, then one is judged by whether one can meet them. And that thesis is so big, so huge, that it just invites people to distrust the United States because there’s no way that one can deliver that grand thesis. So I think it would be better to show in the doing often than to be claiming that we’re going to remake the world in our image.
MARGARET WARNER: So, Andres Oppenheimer, pick up on that. The president said last week, he described 2003 as an extraordinary year for our country abroad and at home. In 2003 he said we’ve become a safer nation. But you were suggesting perhaps otherwise. Do you think the U.S. is more secure?
ANDRES OPPENHEIMER: Margaret, I don’t think so, and partly because of what I just said: The rising tide of anti- Americanism. I think it goes beyond what Trudy just said. She’s right obviously in saying that some Bush administration officials may not have been terribly smart in what they’ve said or done. But I’m more worried about more longer-term trends.
For instance, the things that are security – that are focused on security these days are doing that can hurt us in the long run; the diminishing waves of tourists to this country, the low levels of foreign students, the decline in academic exchanges. All these things that have resulted from the 2001 terrorist attacks from Sept. 11 will hurt us because these are the people that traditionally go back to their countries and become leaders of the future and become pro American leaders. Now so I’m worried about things that go far beyond what an official can say or not say today or what the Bush administration says or does today. Some of the security measures we’re implementing today, which are necessary — obviously this country has to do something to protect itself, but some of these measures will have an impact on what we’re saying before on the battle for the hearts and minds of the people abroad.
MARGARET WARNER: Trudy, a quick comment from you on that. Do you sense a sort of growing isolation, which is really what Andres is talking about?
TRUDY RUBIN: I think that I will come back again to this gap between what we do and what we say. What we do in the future in Iraq is going to affect how people judge what we say about democracy. If we transfer sovereignty in a way that looks as if we hand picked the candidates for a transitional government, that we wanted to dictate the results, then that will create just more distrust in the Middle East. People notice when we talk about democracy and then if we don’t act on it– and often we can’t act on it because of security needs– then they notice that, too. So I think the United States has been… has to be very careful in what it advertises as its goals and at least in Iraq it has to understand that that means it can’t have guaranteed outcomes in who emerges as Iraqi leaders.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let me get a quick final comment from Jim Hoagland on this question of is the U.S. more secure or more isolated?
JIM HOAGLAND: We slip into the political campaign here.
MARGARET WARNER: Let’s not do that.
JIM HOAGLAND: This is going to be the version of Ronald Reagan’s question: Are you better off than you were? I think on specifics, the Bush administration can argue quite convincingly that they have become aware of a danger that was ignored before 9/11. They’ve begun to deal with it in some places. And I think overall the American public as of today would take that view.
MARGARET WARNER: Thanks very much all three and Happy New Year.